Louisville’s Forgotten Mall

Mid-City Mall -- Louisville, KY
Photo credit:  University of Louisville Photo Archives

Mid City Mall -- Louisville, Kentucky When I was little I liked to study maps. I can remember getting the big giant road atlas out and just studying, looking, making notes. Of course living in small town Kentucky, Louisville, the largest city in my home state was often a source of obsession. When thinking back to those maps, Jefferson, Mall St Matthews, and Oxmoor Center, they were all there. Mid City Mall was never mentioned, and being on Bardstown Road, I honestly dont know that I was ever in that part of town until I was a grown man. Mid City Mall -- Louisville, Kentucky Before I dive more into the pictures let me give a little history.

Mid City Mall was built on the site of the German Protestant Orphan’s Home, which was founded in 1851 and moved to the 10-acre Highlands site in 1902. It remained there until 1962, but the structure and grounds were sold for $500,000 in 1959 to mall developers. The aging structure was demolished and the orphanage moved to Bardstown Road and Goldsmith Lane. Developers then built what became Kentucky’s second enclosed mall. The initial plan, unveiled in 1958, called for a $7.5 million, five-story mall with a pool in front on the Bardstown Road side and penthouse apartments on the top floor. The plan was gradually whittled down to a one-story plan with a lower level. The main developer of the project was Guy E. McGaughey, Jr., an attorney from Lawrenceville, Ill. The concept of an enclosed mall was very new. There were only a handful of enclosed malls in the US at the time. In drawing up the business model for the Mall, Mr. McGaughey had no basis for the rents. There was not a history for how much to charge the tenants for space, maintenance, housekeeping, repairs, trash pick-up, etc. Consequently, revenues were never enough to keep the Mall up-to-date and clean. Construction began in March 1962 and the mall was completed in October of that year at a cost of $3 million. The shopping center formally opened on October 10, 1962, in a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Louisville Mayor William O. Cowger and Jefferson County Judge Marlow Cook. The mall contained 180,000 square feet of leasable space and 22 stores. On June 21, 1964 an early morning fire that started in the Cherokee Book and Card Stop caused $200,000 in damage to the mall.

Mid City Mall -- Louisville, Kentucky

There was also a Kresge store in this mall that held its grand opening in October of 1962. Mid City Mall -- Louisville, Kentucky
The mall originally opened with Winn-Dixe supermarket.  When Winn-Dixie pulled out of the Louisville market in 2004, Buehler’s, a chain based in Jasper, Indiana, (not to be confused with the chain of the same name based in Ohio). Amid financial difficulties Buehler’s filed for bankruptcy in 2005 and closed both Louisville stores. The space was quickly taken over by Valu Market, a local Louisville area chain. Valu Market remains there today.

The mall is basically an elongated square on two floors.  The bottom floor was once home to a skating rink.  Today the mall is home to many non traditional mall tennants including a comedy club, doctors offices,  and a branch of the Louisville Public Library.
Mid City Mall -- Louisville, Kentucky//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js
Mid City Mall -- Louisville, Kentucky
In 2015 it was announced that the mall would recieve renovations and new tennants. Today the mall is full and renovations have been completed.
Mid City Mall -- Louisville, KY

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May 2017 Indiana/Ohio Road Trip: Day 1

Meadow Lake Wind Farm
4:30 came so early this morning.  So early in fact I rolled back over and slept until 5.  In doing that I had to leap out of bed when my alarm went off and leave as quickly as possible.  I was out the door and on the road by about 5:20. The grand total for the day was 485 miles. That 485 miles included 2 new Kmart stores, a mall in Louisville on Bardstown Road that I didnt even know existed, my customary stop at the Falls of the Ohio River State Park in Clarksville, Indiana, 2 Goodwill Outlets, 1 regular Goodwill store, Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis, and the Meadow Lake Wind Farm off I65 near Chalmers. Ill give another update tomorrow with a few more pictures from the day. Enjoy and thanks for reading!
Louisville, Kentucky Kmart -- Thompson Rd -- Indianapolis, IN
Indianapolis, Indiana Indianapolis, Indiana

Big Four Bridge — Louisville, Kentucky

The Big Four Bridge was first conceived in Jeffersonville in 1885 by various city interests. The Louisville and Jeffersonville Bridge Company was formed in 1887 to construct the Big Four Bridge, after a charter by the state of Indiana; Kentucky also chartered the company in 1888. The riverboat industry, a big economic factor in Jeffersonville, had requested that the bridge be built further upstream from the Falls of the Ohio, but the United States Army Corps of Engineers approved the building site, even after the vocal protestations.

Louisville KY

Construction began on October 10, 1888. The Big Four Bridge would be the only Louisville bridge with serious accidents during its building; thirty-seven individuals died during its construction. The first twelve died while working on a pier foundation when a caisson that was supposed to hold back the river water flooded, drowning the workers. Another four men died a few months after that when a wooden beam broke while working on a different pier caisson.

Louisville, Kentucky

The Big Four Bridge had one of the biggest bridge disasters in the United States, occurring on December 15, 1893 when a construction crane was dislodged by a severe wind, causing the falsework support of a truss to be damaged and the truss—with forty-one workers on it—to fall into the Ohio River. Twenty of the workers survived, but twenty-one died. The accident almost cost more lives, as a ferry crossing the Ohio River just barely missed being hit by the truss. Hours later, a span next to the damaged span also fell into the river, but was unoccupied at the time, causing no injuries. As a result, falsework was longitudely reinforced to prevent further occurrences, and also to prevent strong winds from causing similar damage by using special bracing on the bottom frame of the truss. Also, a new rule was enforced: “never trust a bolted joint any longer than is necessary to put a riveted one in place”.

The Big Four Bridge was finally completed in September 1895. Because of the location of the bridge and the growth of the Kennedy Interchange, the interchange had to avoid the columns that were on the approach to the bridge, causing the interchange to have several two-lane ramps rather than a single stretch of highway, and helped earn the nickname Spaghetti Junction. Due to the various accidents, the Louisville and Jeffersonville Bridge Company was financially strapped after building the bridge, and later in 1895 sold it to the Indianapolis-based Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway, also known as the Big Four Railroad. This gave the railway its first entry into the Louisville market, although the railroad would have likely used the bridge even if they had not bought it, as they desired access to Louisville.

The bridge is now used just for pedestrian traffic.

Kmart’s Exodus (Almost) From Metro Louisville

Kmart -- Taylorsville Road, Louisville KY
Over the past several years I have became fascinated with retail history and even more specifically Kmart.  I can remember growing up and going to the Kmart store at Village Center Mall in Harlan.  Man that place was magical.  I can also vaguely remember TG&Y….which was located in another shopping center down the way by the A&P.   Both of those chains do not exist any more and are buried deep in the back of many people’s minds.  Anyone remember SuperX?  Which turned into Revco and then CVS?   Yeah, SuperX is a name you havent heard in a while I am sure.  Every year it seems Kmart has a massive round of closings and the store numbers dwindle even further.  In 1994 Kmart started its first round of store closings the store count stood at a hair under 2,500…..After the store closings in July and August of this year that number will stand at a hair above the 800 mark.  Whats even more stunning than that statistic?  In December 2014 there were 1,050 Kmart stores.  Thats right at 250 store closings in less than 2 years.

On April 21, 2016 the latest round of Kmart store closings was announced and included in this list was 4 of the 5 Kmart stores in the Metro Louisville area.  Those stores are:

  • Poplar Level Road (Louisville)
  • Taylorsville Road (Louisville)
  • Elizabethtown, Kentucky
  • New Albany, Indiana

I decided to take a day trip out in the Metro Louisville area and document these stores before they disappear into a part of our past as they close for the final time this Sunday, July 31st.
Kmart -- Poplar Level -- Louisville, KY First up: Poplar Level Road Kmart. This store first opened in 1972 with a Kmart Foods attached. By 1975 the Kmart Foods concept was dead. This store was then heavily remodeled and general merchandise expanded into the foods section. Kmart -- Poplar Level, Louisville KY
Kmart -- Poplar Level, Louisville KY Kmart: Taylorsville Road, Louisville This store opened for business on March 6, 1967. The store was heavily remodeled sometime in the mid 1990s. Kmart -- Taylorsville Rd.  Louisville, KY
Kmart -- Taylorsville Rd.  Louisville, KY Kmart -- Taylorsville Road, Louisville KY
Kmart -- Taylorsville Road, Louisville KY Kmart: Elizabethtown, Kentucky Opened in 1992. This store replaced a much smaller store that was located in nearby Radcliff. Kmart Elizabethtown, KY
Kmart Elizabethtown, KY Kmart Elizabethtown, KY
Kmart: New Albany, Indiana first opened October 29, 1981.
Kmart -- New Albany, Indiana Kmart -- New Albany, Indiana
Kmart -- New Albany, Indiana
With these store closings Sunday Kmart will be left with one store located at Outer Loop. A city of almost 800,000 people and a metro area much larger, and Kmart has dwindled to one single location.  At one time there were at least 9 Kmart stores in the metro area. That’s not counting ones I have not identified that might have been in Southern Indiana.  I fear the end is near and for that reason I will continue documenting Kmart stores and their existence today.